cover image Denial


Keith Russell Ablow. Pantheon Books, $22.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44211-0

""We are, all of us, crippled and twisted,"" observes Frank Clevenger, the forensic psychologist who narrates Ablow's lurid debut thriller. Frank's own knowledge of cocaine, booze, gambling, strippers and sadistic sex (all intimately detailed by Ablow) has made him an invaluable consultant to the Lynn, Mass., cops, so he's the one police captain Emma Hancock turns to when the murdered and mutilated body of a young woman is discovered. Did the schizophrenic vagrant found at the scene of the crime do the deed, as the cops think? Frank thinks not and is compelled to search out the truth--that a serial killer is on the loose. To do so, he must deal with difficult cops and physicians; with his lover, Kathy, an ob-gyn who is hounding him to give up his wicked ways; and, above all, with his inner demons. Too many characters--the wisecracking pathologist, the whore with the golden heart--smack of cliche, and the plot strains (but doesn't rupture) credibility as it reveals Frank to be much closer to the killer than he suspected. Even so, Ablow, himself a psychiatrist, delivers a convincing, seductively fascinating portrait of a man and a milieu obsessed with sensation and trapped in denial of that obsession. (July)